Nirmal, the 30-year-old wife of a potter in East Delhi, was diagnosed with Hepatitis C with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in December last year. Both her kidneys have long stopped working. But she is still struggling to get a dialysis session.
This despite the Delhi government’s repeated assertions to make dialysis services accessible to poor patients through several schemes, including tie-ups with private hospitals. Nirmal also got a written letter from the OSD of Health Minister Satyendra Jain on May 6, “requesting” a public hospital in Northeast Delhi to treat her. All this to no avail.
According to medical papers available with the patient, she was admitted at Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) hospital on December 26 last year for mouth ulcerations and altered behaviour with 2-3 episodes of seizures. She was diagnosed with ESRD, stage five chronic kidney disease with Hepatitis C. In Nirmal’s discharge summary on December 27, the hospital said she was “being referred to other hospitals (LNJP/RML/Rajiv Gandhi super-specialty hospital) as the HCV positive machine was not working in GTB hospital”.
After struggling to get dialysis for the last four months, first from a Delhi government centre and then from a private hospital under the EWS scheme, Nirmal’s husband Raju approached the Delhi government. “I am directed to refer the case for treatment in your hospital. She is reportedly suffering from kidney problem and requires urgent dialysis. Honorable minister has desired to consider the request for appropriate action,” the letter signed by the health minister’s OSD Ritu Saxena and addressed to Dr B K Jain, medical superintendent of GTB hospital, on May 6 states.
Armed with this letter, Nirmal and Raju again went to GTB hospital. On Friday and Saturday, they were again told the machine was not working. “This is a repeat of the nightmare we suffered in December last year. I was hopeful now they would not refuse my wife’s treatment,” Raju said.
Contacted by The Indian Express, the MS of GTB hospital, Dr Jain, said the patient be sent to his office on May 18. “There was a problem with our machines, but we will try to help the patient on Monday after looking at her papers. Please send her to my office on Monday,” Dr Jain said.
Sources said according to guidelines, dialysis centres were asked to provide dedicated machines for patients with infectious diseases like HCV and HIV that can be transmitted blood to blood. “Guidelines were issued by the Delhi government in 2012 to provide separate machines. It has so happened that this machine is having problems. Otherwise the hospital is providing dialysis facilities everyday, we are stretching our limits to accommodate all patients from 8 am to 8 am, and sometimes the machines give way,”a senior hospital official said.
From December last year, the couple went to Rajiv Gandhi super-specialty hospital in Tahirpur. Here, in what is the largest centre run by the Delhi government under a PPP to provide dialysis which is supposed to be free for poor patients under the Delhi Arogya Kosh scheme, Raju had to pay for his biweekly sessions. He does not have a national food security card that is now mandatory for EWS status certification. “I went to Rajiv Gandhi hospital because I was told the government provides free dialysis services here. But I did not have a food security card, so I had to pay Rs 1,300 for every session,” Raju, who makes and sells utensils made of mud in Pandav Nagar in East Delhi, said.
While the director and medical superintendent of the hospital could not be reached for comment, a senior health department official said, “Usually if some document including a ration card or food security card or a BPL card is available, patients are given free treatment.”